18 oktober 2021 in

The office as a cool place to be

We talked to Véronique Brasseur, Touring’s HR Director, about the how and why of this move and the search for an office that had to meet quite a few criteria.

The office as a cool place to be

In early 2022, Touring’s headquarters will move from the Rue de la Loi to the brand new Quatuor complex located between the Place Charles Rogier and Brussels-North railway station. We talked to Véronique Brasseur, Touring’s HR Director, about the how and why of this move and the search for an office that had to meet quite a few criteria.

Touring’s current headquarters lie in the European district; more specifically, in the Rue de la Loi. Spread over eight floors, some 400 employees provide an optimal service to their members and B2B customers. Today, Touring, as a player in the multimodal- ity sector, provides roadside assistance to cars, bicycles, kick scooters, one-wheelers, motorbikes, scooters and much more. It also seeks answers to all of the possible mobility questions with which our society is confronted today. In short, Touring has come a long way since it started out as a cycling club in 1895, before, in 1948, becoming the first Belgian company to assist drivers on the road with 12 road assistance workers.

‘At the end of the nineties, an extensive renovation was completed. Several manor houses were transformed into one large office complex. Two decades later, the new, once quite modern, office was already very outdated. A ‘modernisation’ was needed. However, that turned out to not be so simple, since building and office standards have evolved greatly over the years,’ says Véronique Brasseur. ‘These new standards meant that we would actually have to start from scratch. As the owner of the building, we then discussed certain considerations. Would we completely gut and rebuild the building? That would mean that we would have to move temporarily and then move again. Was that really the way we wanted to go? In addition, we also asked ourselves whether this was still the ideal place for our headquarters. Until, as luck would have it, a property developer came forward and offered to buy the building on attractive terms. Our choice was quickly made. We were going to start a completely new project. After the finalisation of the sale at the end of 2019, we were given two full years to move.’

Véronique Brasseur has been HR Director at Touring since September 2018. Prior to that, she worked as HR Business Director at t-group and HR Manager at Alcatel, Microsoft and Crossroad Consulting, among others.

Catherine Leheureux is Senior Consultant Offices Brussels at Ceusters and acknowledged as a member of SIOR.*

*SIOR is the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors. The society is active in 32 countries and is recognized as the leading professional commercial and industrial real estate association.

foto Brasseurs Touring

 

What criteria did the new headquarters have to meet?

Véronique Brasseur: ‘We set up a strategic exercise. What is our ambition for the future? What kind of office do we want? And where? How do we see the new way of working? What is important for us as an organisation and for our employees? We work in shifts, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That means that our employees must be able to feel 100% safe when they come to the office. As a major Belgian mobility organisation, we wanted to remain in the Brussels Capital Region and be easily accessible by various modes of transport. Nowadays, many of our employees use public transport, so the proximity of a train and metro station was an important condition, but we also wanted to encourage the use of bicycles. A safe cycling route, a spacious bicycle shed, charging facilities for electric bicycles and shower rooms were therefore also a must. That was not so easy in the Rue de la Loi. If, as a company, you want to contribute to building the mobility of the future, you have to follow your own advice, of course. We also wanted a parking infrastructure with sufficient charging stations for electric cars. “We wanted to choose a building that would reflect positively on our organisation and boost our innovative drive.”

Sustainability is also very important to us. So it had to be a centrally located, ecological and state-of-the-art building with plenty of natural light. Because, yes, we immediately wanted to take the opportunity to choose a building that would reflect positively on our organisation and boost our innovative drive. Those are quite a few parameters to meet. Especially when combined with a strict moving deadline and the need to have our own concept store – visible from the street – in the new building.’

 

At the end of 2019, the search for a new head office, both in terms of location and interpretation, was launched. What will your new office look like?

Véronique Brasseur: ‘Starting from our strategic exercise, we looked at how many square metres we would need in the new head office if we were to switch to a home-working policy of two days a week. We started this ‘new’ way of working before the outbreak of the COVID pandemic. Afterwards, the compulsory full-time remote working only confirmed the idea that it could be done. In other words, COVID helped us in this shift. At the same time, it was also clear to us that we had to go for a different layout of the office space. One that would promote interdepartmental cooperation; gone was the classic picture of one department per floor. With a central lift and a staircase that is somewhat camouflaged, there was far too little spontaneous contact between the departments in our office in the Rue de la Loi. That is a terrible shame, because in my experience that is how the best ideas come about. So we ended up in the Quatuor complex on the corner of the Boulevard Baudouin and the Boulevard Roi Albert II, close to Place Charles Rogier and the Brussels-North railway station. We rent 3 spacious floors in the C-Tower, aka The Cloud, of the Quatuor complex. One floor has been fully equipped as a ‘collaboration’ zone, accessible via an internal staircase from the work café. The main aim was to be close to each other, without being too close to each other. The slogan that encompasses everything for us is ‘A cool place to be.’ With the emphasis on ‘to be.’ Since we are convinced that an employee is much more than just a talented professional.’

 

‘A cool place to be’ can also be an additional asset in the war for talent.

Véronique Brasseur: ‘It sure can. From an HR perspective, this move is a super interesting exercise. We are creating a pleasant, inspiring and stimulating work environment that employees will enjoy coming to and where cooperation will be the focal point. Such a move is, of course, a narrative of change and people management; a challenge for which my own work experiences have served me well. I started my career at Alcatel, and after many years I moved to Microsoft. I literally moved from an ‘old’ environment to a super-modern building. From the moment you walked in, you could feel the energy, the innovation ... the urge to jump in. An inspiring office environment can really have a substantial impact. That’s where you want to work. The COVID crisis has made it clear that working from home is possible, but at the same time, the call for an office as a crucial place for meeting and working together is louder than ever. We must make this space as attractive as possible.’

 

 

Talking about collaboration: this move is the result of a collaboration between Vinci, Brainmove and Ceusters.

Véronique Brasseur: ‘In Vinci we found the partner who wanted to initiate and guide the entire process. They then called in Brainmove and Ceusters, who each brought their own expertise to the table. And expertise is not just a luxury for such a large project. Catherine Leheureux of Ceusters brought the necessary real estate expertise on board. She has a particularly good understanding of the Brussels office market, which is a very specific market. In order to find an office building that would meet all of our parameters, you really can’t ask just anyone.’

 

How was the cooperation with these partners?

Véronique Brasseur: ‘The collab- oration within that ecosystem was nothing short of excellent. Ceusters worked with us on our in-house strategic exercise and looked for office buildings that met all of the criteria on our rather extensive list. [laughs] In our search for our new office, we worked intensively with the Brussels team at Ceusters, led by Catherine Leheureux, and evolved a longlist of 15 buildings to a shortlist, before finally arriving at the Quatuor, which we visited during the start-up phase. Literally with a helmet on our heads and wellies on our feet, between the scaffolding and the concrete mixers! 3D models filled in the missing pieces. And so, at the beginning of 2022, we will move into a brand new office in which we will not only feel at home right away, but which will also offer us the necessary energy and drive for the future!’

building BUO

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